As you cross the bridge Luís I to Vila Nova de Gaia, you may admire the ?Rabelo? boats on the riverbank. They are the symbol of the famous Port Wine and the trademark of the Port Wine Cellars.
The ?Rabelo? boat, which was invented in the 9th century, was used for transporting the products from the farms of the Douro for centuries. In 1792, the ?Companhia Geral da Agricultura e Vinha do Alto Douro? published numerous charters and documents concerning this type of boat, therefore establishing the identity of the ?Rabelo?.
The purpose of its peculiar shape was to overcome the natural obstacles of the Douro river and to make the boatman?s task easier.
The large amount of Port Wine produced in the farms required frequent transportation downriver. The journey lasted more than a week and the conditions were precarious, often leading to dangerous accidents.
Following the construction of the railway and the improvement of the public highway, the ?Rabelo? boat gradually lost its importance. Finally, the dams along the Douro river brought its activity to a standstill.
Nowadays, this symbol of the Port Wine and trademark of the Cellars still competes fiercely for a place of honour in the regatta of ?S. João?, organized by the ?Confraria do Vinho do Porto? (Port Wine Brotherhood) on June 24th (municipal holiday).